One Step at a Time

The Trouble with Tea

The week sped quickly by, thankfully and wonderfully boring. No attacks, no surprises and no weird dreams or mind control. Just classes, homework and hospital visits where each time Draco looked better and acted more like his haughty but still likable self.

Snape had come back on Monday evening, Blaise and Pansy in tow. He'd been abnormally serious and concerned, explaining that he'd talked with Nott and that any attacks or instances should be reported to him immediately. He understood Slytherin house rules, but it was not going to be under his care that someone died or was beyond mentally scarred.

That hadn't stopped the taunting and cold shoulders though. Although Draco was still isolated from it, Blaise and Pansy reported the missing desks and chairs, the pushes and whispered threats to stop seeing the Gryffindors, and the utter coldness in their housemates' actions.

Questions had also started to arise surrounding Draco's disappearance. It had been just over a week by then and many were wondering. Snape and Dumbledore had decided it was still best to use the story that Draco had been called home for a family emergency. Once Lucius found out his son was fine, which Snape had no doubt he somehow would, there would be no cause for alarm, since it was technically a family emergency, just not of the sort one normally expected.

Lucius had been given a restraining order for Hogwarts grounds and it would activate an alert if he tried to step foot on the property. Draco knew though that if his father wanted badly enough he'd find a way around it. Although why he'd want to see his son, except to possibly kill him himself, was not something Draco wanted to think about.

And then there had been Harry, visiting Draco early Tuesday morning. He'd looked somewhat frightened and subdued all at the same time, fingers twitching as if he ached to hold his wand. Draco had had to mentally tell himself to calm down, that nothing was going to happen. It was just his friend.

"I came to apologize. I've been a horrible friend," Harry had said, not able to meet Draco's eyes. "I completely overreacted back at the hospital and it was all my fault."

"It wasn't your fault," Draco had said, not knowing exactly what he wanted to say.

"When you looked at me like that… it hurt, Draco. It did." Harry had been surprised to feel a tear trickling down his face. Draco's breath had caught too at the admission of complete and horrible honesty. "But I know I can't take it personally. What I did to you… what my body did to you… I would probably react the same way."

Draco had been relieved. Harry had spelled it almost out exactly how he felt, without Draco having to admit what a horrible friend he felt like saying he was still afraid of Harry's actions and movements.

"I just wanted to clear the air between us," Harry had continued. "You're one of my best friends, Draco. I don't want this to hurt us."

"It won't. It may take me a while, and for that I'm really sorry, but I'll get over it. I won't let anything Voldemort did ruin our friendship."

Other than that though, it'd been a pretty boring week. Draco had dutifully kept up with his homework with Hermione's help and his friends had tried to tell him funny stories, like how Seamus had managed to singe of both his eyebrows and hair in one go in the latest potions accident.

On Friday morning, November 9, Draco was officially declared by Pomfrey to be fit to leave. Unfortunately, she had cleared him early enough that he could still attend all of his classes. After a week of not taking notes, Draco both missed it and relished the freedom. At the moment he was in the phase of wanting to relish that freedom.

But he'd gotten up from bed, changed into a set of robes Blaise had brought down the evening before, grabbed his bag and loaded the books he needed for the morning in it, and headed towards the Great Hall for breakfast.

Walking was still somewhat of a challenge, having been almost completely bedridden for a full week. He'd been practicing and with Pomfrey's attentions he didn't even have a limp, but it still tired him more than it should have.

The mediwitch had said it was because of the injury so close to his heart – despite her potions and spells it was healing slowly and drew a lot of his energy. Even now he still had bandages wrapped around his upper torso, which tugged every few steps.

The ones on his face had been taken off, and with a few more sessions of dittany Pomfrey believed the scars would be all but invisible. Right now he had a glamour charm covering them up, as they were still slightly pink and he didn't need any more attention than he was already going to get.

The halls were mostly empty, due in part that no dormitories were from the direction of the Hospital Wing. So Draco took it easy, occasionally leaning up against a wall to catch his breath, frustrated that walking took so much out of him. How was he supposed to get through the whole day?

Eventually though he was within sight of the Great Hall, so he straightened up, held his head high and stalked through the doors like he owned the place. Breakfast was already mostly in full swing so his presence, amidst the others who were entering at the same time, wasn't all that special, but many of the Slytherins' heads swiveled towards him. Several held expressions of distaste and hate, while some were indifferent and even a few looked worried. Earlier on he would scoff at those perceived weaker Slytherins, the quiet, half-blood ones or the few purebloods who didn't care so much about their blood status or were worried about it in a den of snakes. But now he was almost grateful. At least not everyone would be out for his blood.

Pansy and Blaise were sitting at the end of the table, a wide space surrounding them, the outcasts. They brightened when they spotted him, Blaise nudging Pansy in the side with his elbow.

"How are you feeling?" she asked, setting her oatmeal spoon back in the bowl as Draco tried as un-obviously as possible to ease himself onto the bench. These were so much more uncomfortable than his bed!

"Peachy."

"Glad to see you so cheerful," she teased. "Eat up, we've got History of Magic first period and I know how much you love that class."

"No one likes that class," Draco grumbled, sliding a plate of eggs towards him, hash following shortly after. He actually did enjoy some parts of History of Magic though. Anything that dealt with dragons was always one of his favorite things. And Pansy soaked up anything regarding the ninja wizards.

"Eat quickly," Blaise said, gulping down the last sip of his broccoli juice. Pansy shuddered at the green foam left in the glass. "We have to make sure we get to class on time."

"I resemble a bit of a flobberworm in terms of speed right now," Draco said, scarfing down his eggs. "You don't have to wait for me."

"That's why we're leaving with time to spare," said Pansy. "Come on, time to get moving."

"We still have twenty minutes!"

"Which should be plenty to get to the opposite side of the castle," said Pansy. "Let's go, Mr. Flobberworm."

"You're hilarious," Draco deadpanned.

"I try my hardest."

xxx

Elsewhere in the castle, the Gryffindors were settling down with the Hufflepuffs for their Transfiguration class. McGonagall had, strangely enough, a large selection of mice at the front of the room and several tea sets stacked on the front tables.

"Professor, I thought we already made teapots," Hermione said.

"We have, Miss Granger. But due to a certain incident many students did not finish the assignment."

Hermione and Neville blushed and Harry turned a little paler at the mention of it. He still hardly drank tea.

"So today we're going to all make a complete tea set. Everyone will make four tea cups, a teapot, four saucers and four spoons. Bonus points for those that make a creamer and sugar pot. All sets must have a unifying theme of some sort – be it flowers, swirls, colors… the more complex the higher your score will be. Spells are listed in chapter fourteen and any information you would want to incorporate for colors and the like can be found throughout chapter eighteen. Are there any questions?"

"Can I be excused?" Harry asked, to chuckles around the room. He was starting to look a little green.

"No, Mr. Potter. You should perfectly safe this time, so long as everyone keeps their wands trained directly at their mice. Will that be a problem?"

"No, Professor," everyone chorused.

"Then come and get your boxes of mice. If you do not finish by the end of class, you may come in later today after dinner during my office hours, or Saturday morning before ten."

"It'll be fine, Harry," Hermione comforted as they both collected a box of several mice. "We're all adults here."

"I just have this horrible feeling," Harry muttered, sitting back at his table he shared with Hermione. Neville and Ron were behind them and Seamus and Dean were in front of them.

"It'll be fine. Just think, at least we know of the cure this time."

"That's not very comforting."

Within minutes though he'd fallen silent, flipping through the book and familiarizing himself with the wand movements and various spells. Hermione was planning on making an ivory tea set with pale pink and gold trim, possibly with some spirals with tiny leaves.

Harry was thinking of red with black polka dots. He figured it was simple and he deserved points for even attempting this horrible spell. McGonagall could be very cruel.

By the time he'd gotten enough courage to utter the words that had made him into a teapot just weeks ago, Hermione already had a full set of cups and saucers. "Show off," he muttered, still feeling proud when the teacup he'd been picturing appeared at the end of his wand.

She just smirked and concentrated on making the teapot, determined this time to not let anything accidentally have her cast the spell on her friend.

"This is hard," Ron muttered from behind them. Harry turned around, seeing Ron's motley collection of various colored and patterned teacups. One had a chip. Neville was faring better, all of his at least porcelain black with small green and blue waves around the bases.

"Just focus on one image, Ron," Hermione said, turning around to help. "What is it you're trying to make?"

As Hermione gently coached Ron, Harry turned back to his with a sense of inner peace. If Hermione was back there insuring they were doing it right, nothing would go wrong. Merlin was he paranoid!

Neville had taken precautions as well, temporarily sticking his chair's legs to the ground so he couldn't be budged from his position, and gripping his wand very tightly. With all of his concentration focused on the task there was no room for distractions to cause him to have an accident.

Except for the fact he was apparently allergic to mice. The longer he sat there, carefully turning his mice into the tea set, his nose kept tickling and his eyes kept watering. But he was trying so hard on the teapot and couldn't stop, he had to ignore the sneeze building and keep moving the wand.

"ACHOO!" he finally let out, unable to hold it back anymore. Unfortunately at that moment he felt the spell release from his wand. Wiping his nose on his sleeve, he was disappointed to see that the mouse was still a mouse. His eyes started to water again.

But then that dark, clenching fear took a hold of his stomach. It couldn't have happened again… right?

Raising his eyes up, Ron and Hermione still immersed in Ron's tea set, he looked at Harry.

An angry black teapot with a green lightning bolt glared back. He didn't even know teapots could glare.

"Oh Godric help me."

A shrill whistling started, immediately attracting everyone's attention. Mouths dropped and more than a few snickers started around the classroom.

"I'M SO SORRY!" Neville wailed, dropping his wand.

"HARRY'S A TEAPOT!" Ron shrieked, rolling on the ground and clutching his stomach. "AGAIN!"

"Mr. Longbottom!"

"Wow, it really happened," Hermione murmured to herself.

"HAHAHAHAHA!"

"I DIDN'T MEAN TO! REALLY! I'M SO SORRY HARRY!"

"Mr. Longbottom, how on earth did you manage to hit Mr. Potter?"

"I'M ALLERGIC!"

"Allergies made you hit Mr. Potter?"

"HARRY'S A FREAKING TEAPOT! HAHAHAHAHA!"

"Mr. Weasley if you do not stop that laughter this instant I'll make you into a teacup to match!"

Ron immediately sobered up.

"It looks like there's going to be another visit to St. Mungo's for you, Mr. Potter. Miss Granger, would you mind taking him? Your tea set looks just about complete and you know who to talk to."

"Of course, Professor. Is it all right if I just finish the creamer?"

Harry tooted indignantly.

"What? It's not my fault this time," she said.

"That's fine, Miss Granger. Mr. Potter, I'll expect to see you later this evening then to continue your set. Understood?"

A sullen whistle.

"Good. Everyone, carry on. Mr. Longbottom, put away your wand. You're done for the day."

Neville stared sadly down at the tabletop. He really had been trying to get a good grade that time. He needed it to pull his Transfig score up.

"I'll be seeing you tomorrow, Mr. Longbottom, at eight a.m. sharp to finish your set under my watch. Is that satisfactory?"

Neville breathed a sigh of relief. "Yes, thank you Professor."

"Good. Then for now you will help collect the finished sets and label them for grading."

Everyone turned to their own tasks and a few minutes later Hermione stood up, a beautiful, complete tea set in front of her. "Alright Harry, time to go get you changed back. Won't Healer Brandi be excited to see you again?"

Harry gave a morose toot as Hermione picked him up and headed straight for Dumbledore's office to obtain a pass for St. Mungo's.

"Feels just like old times, huh?" she asked. "Maybe we should go get Draco."

Harry just sat quietly, and Hermione pictured him rolling his eyes.

After uttering the password of "Vampire Pops" the two arrived in the headmaster's office, where Dumbledore was sitting behind his desk and writing on a piece of parchment.

"Ah, Miss Granger. What a pleasant surprise. What can I do for you?"

"There was a mishap back in Transfiguration… Harry's a teapot. Again."

Harry whistled, and Dumbledore chuckled. "You're never going to want a cup of tea again, eh Harry? Very well, here's a pass for St. Mungo's. Do try and be back by lunch if you can."

"Yes sir, thank you very much."

A quick floo later and the two were headed up the crowded staircase to floor four, spell damage. Hermione kept a very firm grip on the teapot, determined to not have a repeat of last time's heart-stopping episode. She really owed Mrs. Weasley for saving Harry.

"We need to see Healer Brandi, please," Hermione said, inwardly narrowing her eyes at the receptionist. It was that same rude person from before, how had she not been fired? People were dealing with traumatic situations when they came up here; they needed someone to be kind to them.

"She's in a current appointment," she said, not looking up from her magazine.

"It's very important. Harry Potter is a teapot again."

That got her attention. She looked from Hermione to the teapot in her arms, eyes widening in recognition. "Oh. Well, let me message her."

Scrawling a quick message on a paper airplane, she sent it whizzing in the air and down the hall. "If you just want to take a seat in the waiting room I'm sure she'll be with you shortly."

"Thank you." Seated, Hermione gave Harry an evil grin. "Just throw your name around and people move so much quicker."

She was right. Within minutes Healer Brandi had appeared, grinning when she saw Harry. "I swear, what are you lot doing at Hogwarts these days?" she asked, gesturing for them to follow her to a waiting room down the hall.

"Harry just seems to have an affinity for this sort of thing," Hermione said, entering the room and then stopping in surprise. About ten people were crammed into the room, looks of excitement on their faces.

"Don't mind them," Brandi said. "This is such a rare operation everyone wanted to watch the transformation. Is that all right with you, Mr. Potter?"

He whistled, almost as if shrugging. If they wanted to see him spit out what tasted and looked like seaweed mixed with jell-o they could be his guests.

"All right then. Miss Granger, if you could just put him on the lab table there. Mr. Potter, there's a cauldron right next to you to hack it all up in then."

Harry sighed inwardly as the healers all crowded about him.

Brandi poured the odd mixture into his teapot body and within seconds he felt himself beginning to grow warm. To the observers the teapot started to flash between white and black before it started to lengthen into a full figure.

Harry felt himself leaving the small, cramped form of a teapot and felt relief as well as a horrible cramping in his stomach. Grabbing the cauldron he placed it in his lap, dropping his wand which was still clutched tightly in his hand.

He heard gasps and soft laughter but was too focused on throwing up to care what they found funny. He felt Hermione's hand patting his back gently as the last remnants of the gunk came up. Her very warm hand on his suddenly very cold back.

Giving one last heave, Harry looked down at himself and immediately flushed scarlet.

"Where are my clothes?" he all but shrieked, thankful he'd pulled the cauldron over him.

Brandi was chuckling as another healer went to retrieve a hospital gown from a closet. "It appears something was different about this transformation. Can you think of anything different that happened, Mr. Potter?"

"I'm only thinking that I'm freaking naked," he snapped, embarrassed. Why did there have to be so many healers here anyway?

"Let's head outside while we allow Mr. Potter to get dressed," Brandi suggested. "We can discuss it in the conference room. It's just down the hall on your left, Mr. Potter."

A healer dropped a hospital gown and pants off and they all scurried out of the room, Hermione trying to decide if she wanted to laugh or go with the feeling of pity. She tried both and ended up with a very odd snort-sounding laugh.

The conference room was very comfortable with blue plush chairs and a wide oak table. Harry joined them a minute later, cheeks still bright red. He looked a little out of focus as well, since his glasses had also disappeared in the transformation.

"I think it has something to do with Harry holding a wand," Hermione said once he was seated next to her, squinting at the assembled healers. "No one had one earlier and it was the only thing that came back with him from the transformation."

"That does seem like a plausible situation," Brandi agreed. "Some sort of equivalent exchange, perhaps? In any case, I'm glad you're doing all right, Mr. Potter. Feel free to transfigure the clothing into something more street appropriate if you'd like. Miss Granger, if you could just fill out some quick paperwork?"

Ten minutes later the two were heading for the floo fireplace, Harry in a pair of transfigured mesh pants and a thin cotton shirt courtesy of Hermione. She unfortunately hadn't had much to work with. Already she was planning on how to make him a new pair of glasses when they reached Hogwarts and for the moment was lightly steering him through the throngs of people.

"You really do have horrible eyesight," she said as he almost walked into a receptionist's desk.

"That's the least of my problems," he muttered. "Bloody hell, seriously? Why do these things happen to me?"

"It's not like anyone is going to find out," Hermione said, patting his shoulder comfortingly. "And no one saw anything anyway."

"So you say."

Hermione just sighed and brought them to an open fireplace. "Let's just go back to Hogwarts so I can get you some new glasses."

"Agreed. I have a headache coming on already."

When they arrived back in Dumbledore's office the headmaster was nowhere to be seen but Fawkes trilled happily. Giving the phoenix a quick greeting, Hermione carefully led Harry down the curving staircase and towards Gryffindor Tower where she had all of her supplies.

They crashed into Ron on the way. "Where'd your glasses go, Harry?" he asked.

"There were a few complications at the hospital," Hermione said. "But everything's okay."

At that instant they heard shouting and laughter coming from the Great Hall.

"What do you mean he was naked?"

"That's what the paper said! 'Harry Potter Caught Walking Naked Around St. Mungo's.' Rita Skeeter reported it just minutes ago!"

"I heard he flashed a bunch of healers!"

"No way!"

Harry flushed again and Ron looked at him incredulously. "What did you do?"

Harry just groaned.

xxx

Over the next few hours the stories ranged everywhere from Harry streaking down the hallways to a nude fashion show for hospital patients, to a figure drawing class for muscle and body posters and research kits to Harry having visions and believing clothing closed his inner eye.

The-boy-who-has-unfortunate-encounters-with-teapot-spells was currently holed up in his room, nursing a cup of hot chocolate and refusing to come out. The only thing that hadn't ruined him was there appeared to be no pictures, although there were some very obviously spell-shopped ones.

Hermione had sent out a team to counter the rumors, stating that Harry had been turned into a teapot once more and that was all. All those who had been in the Transfiguration class knew this for a fact and were pitying him and doing their best to help.

Blaise had been sending an owl with updates, where he was stationed in the Great Hall during a free period to see what the current status was. At the moment, the hubbub was starting to die down as the teapot scenarios entered the conversations.

"You know you can't stay up here forever, Harry," Hermione said, sitting on Ron's bed and working on her Ancient Runes homework. "It'll probably look better if you go down and make people see you have nothing to hide."

"Whichever healer blabbed is going to wish they never had," Harry said darkly, the menacing note ruined by his curled up fetal position with Ginny stroking his hair and a marshmallow stuck to his upper lip.

"I think Hermione's right," Ron said, playing a game of connect-the-dots with Neville on the floor. "Up and at 'em, Harry. You can see now so nothing can stop you!"

Harry did indeed have a new pair of glasses courtesy of Hermione. And he was now fully clothed in his own robes and really had no more excuses.

"Okay, fine," he grumbled. "We have class soon anyway, right?"

"History of Magic. A perfect class to get you acclimated to people again."

"A climate? How is the weather going to help Harry?"

Hermione shook her head with a smile. "Nevermind, Ron. Let's all get moving so we get to class on time."

"No stripping out there," Ginny said as he got up and grabbed his books. "Only I deserve to see you naked."

"Ginny!" Ron exclaimed, aghast. "Don't say something like that! And you two better not be—"

"Oh, Ronald, keep your trousers on. I was joking."

"I didn't find it very funny."

By the time the two stopped bickering and playing a tug-of-war game with Harry they were running late for class. And hence, were now running.

Harry got a few weird looks and second glances amongst quiet laughter, but the yelling seemed to have died down and by the time they got to class and taken their seats no one had said a thing. Straightening up, he smiled and looked relieved for the first time in about an hour. It appeared to finally be over.

Class was just as boring as always and lunch afterward was a simple affair, with Draco, Pansy and Blaise joining them at the Gryffindor table.

Draco wisely kept any remarks to himself; feeling pity after having just escaped a hospital as well and Blaise was as tactful as ever. Pansy gently ribbed him, but it was mostly in good humor and Harry even found himself loosening up to how silly the situation looked from an outsider's perspective.

That still didn't stop him from blacklisting Rita Skeeter for life though.

The rest of the day passed by pleasantly for Harry, who did some homework, cuddled with Ginny and read a Quidditch magazine by the fireplace.

The only downside was having Hermione drag him to McGonagall's office to complete the rest of his tea set. McGonagall seemed to have taken pity on him though and supervised the entire thing, including placing warding and blocking charms on him and the fort of chairs he'd piled up in front of him in case anything somehow rebounded.

His tea set was probably at best an "A" due to the rather boring pattern and the lopsided-ness of some of the teacups, but McGonagall gave him an "E," saying, "After what you've been through, Mr. Potter, this seems appropriate. Just please, no more stripping in the hospital!"

By the time he crawled into bed, he was feeling pretty good about the whole fiasco. After everything that had happened in the last week it felt nice to find something humorous to laugh about. And after half of the incidents he endured during the Parenting Class, this was practically nothing.

Drifting off to sleep, Harry felt that things were finally starting to move in the right direction. Except for his experiences with tea. He'd never drink it again.

Ever.

Author's Notes:

See, didn't I tell you there wouldn't be a horribly long wait? I guess not having a real job yet has given me time to write and plan. Although if I had one perhaps I'd be even more motivated…

EDIT: December 22, 2011

Sorry this announcement was so late in coming. It's been a crazy few weeks, what with the holidays, my birthday, covering for my editor and unsuccessful job searching.

Anyways, thank you all very much for participating in the contest! Since I received less than 10 entrants, I'll only be awarding first place, which goes to LishaChan. Congrats, dear! I'll be contacting you with information shortly.

I also wanted to post a sadder announcement:

All of my stories are going on hiatus.

To be more specific, all of my stories are going on hiatus until I have completely finished them.

I love writing fanfiction, I really do. For years it has always been my outlet when things get tough. But lately I haven't had the time to do it and I know I can use my free time for more beneficial things. I've also written as much for you guys as for me and lately no one seems to really care. That's not saying no one does, but y'all have pretty much dropped off the face of and it makes me feel quite underappreciated when I do spend my free time putting together plots and chapters and then no one comes by.

I hope you all understand. They'll all be finished, eventually (with perhaps the exception of Draco's Spirit) in due time. I'll just write when I have inspiration and when I find the time to do so. The only things I'll still be posting are one-shots that I feel like writing. On the bright side, once I start posting again, you'll pretty much get a chapter a week. Yay.

So until next time, happy reading.

IcyPanther

Updated: November 27, 2011